Staunton, July 1 – Many were alarmed by Vladimir Putin’s original plan to spend an enormous sum on the development of Arctic infrastructure, seeing this as the basis for Moscow to project power into the region; but now, the Russian government has said that it will spend only 12 billion rubles (200 million US dollars) there, 17 times less than initially planned.
RBC’s Lyudmila Podobedova reports that the original program announced last winter of 208 billion rubles (820 million US dollars) had already been scaled back this bring, but the new cuts, the result of budgetary stringencies, have eliminated many of the projects in the Strategic Program for Arctic Development (rbc.ru/business/30/06/2017/59550a479a794700f2cca257).
Slightly over half of the remaining funds will go to building a drifting platform to study ice flows. Another quarter will go to development of ports on the Lena River in Sakha. And one billion rubles will be devoted to ensuring counter-terrorist operations in the region. The rest will be divided among other agencies, including for nuclear clean-up and permafrost investigations.
Speaking in Beijing in May, Putin indicated that “part of the projects in the Arctic have had to be put off because of shortages of budgetary financing,” and so signaled in advance this latest cutback although not its size, the RBC journalist says.
But this program, of course, is not the whole story. The defense ministry is planning to spend some 34 billion rubles (580 million US dollars) in the Arctic, according to government sources. However, the specifics on this are not a matter of public knowledge because of the secrecy involved.